Poverty & the Social Safety Net

Around the world and in every U.S. state, women are more likely than men to live in poverty, with additional disparities by race/ethnicity, age, and education level. Despite a period of shrinking unemployment and strong job growth in many areas of the United States, negative developments such as slow wage gains, growing income inequality, and a weakened safety net have contributed to persistent and unacceptably high poverty rates, especially among Black, Hispanic, and Native American women and children.

IWPR has served as a resource on women’s poverty issues since its founding in 1987. Its research explores the prevalence of poverty faced by women and men across different demographic characteristics, including race/ethnicity, education level, age, and household type. IWPR has found that paying working women the same as comparable men—who are of the same age, have the same level of education, work the same number of hours, and have the same urban/rural status—would reduce poverty among working women by more than half.

IWPR’s research has also lifted up the voices of women affected by inadequate policies. For example, in 2005, IWPR researchers began studying women’s circumstances along the U.S. Gulf Coast almost immediately after Hurricane Katrina and were among the first to respond with a gender focus. Between 2005-2015, IWPR produced fact sheets, briefing papers, book chapters, and reports detailing, through both quantitative and qualitative analysis, the conditions faced by the women of New Orleans both before and after the storm. IWPR’s mix of quantitative and qualitative research on this topic has been called “a beacon of light.”

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